Saturday, March 21, 2009

Anxiety Disorders and The Dentist

Pokemon Boy had his first real dentist appointment this past week. Yes, he's eight. Yes, most parents bring their kids to the dentist way before they are eight. I never went until I was 13 and had very few cavities. I made the assumption that Pokemon Boy would have my teeth. Plus, he's such a non-sugar eating kid. Plus, I'm lazy. Throw stones all you perfect people.

Anyway, it was our first visit to this dentist. So you have to fill out all the forms and check all the boxes. I can usually just check all the N/A boxes for all of the diseases or disorders. For Pokemon Boy, I had to check the box that indicated he had a "mental disorder". Man, I hate those lists. "Mental disorder" is not what I would put. But they didn't label it any nicer. I'd prefer neurological issues or something. Ah well, I can't always get the euphemisms I'd like. So I had to check the box that came close enough. Guh. They left a place to indicate how I thought my child would react to treatment. I put something like, "He will be scared and nervous but I think he will cooperate."

Fortunately, this place is a kids' dentist office. They deal only with kids. And therefore, they have dealt with it all. Almost everyone in there is amazingly patient and has mad skillz with the kids. The guy who took Pokemon Boy's x-rays was amazing. I could hear Pokemon Boy asking rather frantically, "What IS that? Is it going to hurt?!" and such. He patiently explained all of the equipment and got the x-rays.

When it was time to get him into the reclining chair, he wouldn't have any of it. He asked, "Is that so I can't get up? Will it keep me there?!" Wow. There are times his anxiety disorder really surprises me. I can never predict where his mind will go and what will freak him out. The reclining chair really freaked him out. They finally talked him into the chair (with quite a few mom-glares from me). At the first visit, it's just x-rays and a cleaning. So they showed him the electric toothbrush and the suction thing. He wouldn't let them use the suction thing. The way it's set up, there is no spit sink next to the chair. So they had to accommodate him, letting him get up and walk to a sink to spit. It didn't scare him. It just "didn't feel good." *sigh* They got his teeth counted, examined and cleaned. Unfortunately, the tooth cleaning woman should not be working with kids (in my opinion). At one point, Pokemon Boy was really upset and didn't want her to put anything in his mouth. He was starting to cry and I was pulled into another room for a review of his x-rays so I couldn't really help. Well, I guess she said to him, "You are crying like a baby. You're a big boy and shouldn't cry." Yes. Very good. By all means, eight year olds LOVE being called a baby. Right up there with being accused of liking the opposite sex. He was VERY upset by her comment. I can see where she might have been going with that comment but it was a poor choice for a kid clearly very freaked out.

So during the whole visit, he questioned everything. Which is pretty normal for an eight year old's first dentist visit. But he wouldn't let them do anything until he was ok with their answers. He pushed their hands away a few times when he was freaked out. All in all, it was less than ideal. But it could have been way worse.

To top it all off, my hopes of no cavities were stupid. He may not eat tons of candy or cake but he drinks juice and lemonade almost exclusively. He'll drink water periodically. But I am an idiot for not paying attention to that. Sugared drinks of any kind sit on the teeth. Even if you brush twice a day, all of that sugar just sits on your teeth for most of the day. YARGH. Anyway, he has to have major work done on three molars (baby teeth, fortunately). One has to be pulled.

So based on his reactions in the office for just x-rays and cleaning, they can't do the work in the office. They are going to put him under general anesthesia to do it all. It kills me. Mostly because all of this was easily avoidable if I had just been diligent about his brushing and flossing. Oh well.

Pokemon Boy is very anxious about the procedure. He's asking me how they'll put him to sleep and the truth is, I have no idea. He is really scared of needles even though he has always done well with them. The thought of the gas mask scares him even though he's had it three times before and did fine. It's so much easier to do surgeries or major procedures on little kids. Because they don't know what to expect. They don't invent scenarios in their heads. And they don't really retain the memories of it.

So while Pokemon Boy's anxiety disorder doesn't horribly affect his day to day life, it's situations like this where it rears its head. And I feel so helpless. And while we're being honest here, I just felt so frustrated in the dentist's office. I should have tried to prepare him for what was coming. But I didn't - opting for not making him worry about what was coming. I never know what to do.

That one impatient lady really irked me. I don't really blame her. They were way behind because some girl's procedures went way longer than expected. So she really didn't have the time to coddle some upset kid that she thought of as too old to freak out. I understand that. But it was just the kind of thing that puts your stomach in knots as the mom. There's an element of wanting to rip her head off. There's an element of embarrassment because you know your kid is under the eye of other people who don't understand his issues. There's an element of heart ache that your kid is so stressed out over something that may now become one of those totally feared and hated things. I have never had issues with going to the dentist. And I think some people work themselves into a big tizzy over it and turn it into a big deal unnecessarily. I hope he can work past this and not have it be a big deal every time.

Thankfully Pokemon Boy believes in God and prayer. He has asked me to pray about his teeth every night. Mostly for peace about the upcoming procedure. Which is a month away. So we're praying about it. And I'm actually asking God to fix his teeth. I have no idea where God stands on that but it can't hurt to ask. Mostly I ask God to make Pokemon Boy ok with the whole concept.



ellesappelle said...

Yuck, poor Pokemon Boy. I used to freak out at the dentist's too.

Kendra said...

Hate this for you. Hey - you need to talk to Moni about what to expect anesthesia wise - she could give you some good pointers. Course, she's one of the ones who tells big kids to not act like babies, too! eek! Mean old hygenist . .

Trish Ryan said...

For what it's worth...I've always been like this at the dentist. It's a freaky place, and I think if you're a sensitive sort of kid you can almost tell that it's a place where there's a lot of pain going on.

My mom coaxed me through 4 years of oral surgeries and orthodontics with the reward system...which for me meant a milkshake and a book on Gymnastics after every big procedure. It didn't calm the freak outs, but it gave me something to look forward to.